Isolation Guide #3 — Mental Mayhem to Mind Control
Much of your UWB ultimate well-being can be controlled by your mind.
Your mind is either your best friend or your worst enemy. Before you continue, pick which one you want it to be. Assuming you want it to be your friend, it’s time to train it. You are up for a battle. Why?
Negative thoughts are innate to human instinct. It’s our survival mode. We perceive things negatively and perceive others distrustfully (though, many we should). Negative thoughts can hurt your life experience. Don’t let it.
And, the enemy is not just within its all around you. The outside world doesn’t want to be your friend. Facebook wants to create social envy and has destroyed the well-being of many of our youth (Zuckerberg hasn’t done one thing to address the mental health issues he causes). TV channels want to infuse you with their own ideas (Both CNN and Fox are to blame). The American glorification of business people and athletes causes us to harshly compare ourselves. This is the culture of America and it’s what media and business feed of off. So how do you beat it?
Try this process.
Identify Negativity and Replace It
For two weeks, write down your stream of consciousness and identify negative thoughts. Raj from Happy Smarts suggests this. Accept your thoughts, just like it’s important to accept feelings. Once you recognize a pattern of negativity, replace it with a positive thought.
Write down the negative external influences, write them all. Then write how you want to reshape them. Far more important than the situation outside is your own reaction to it, so take responsibility for that! If your mind entangles itself in negative thoughts and emotions, make an effort to correct it by coming back to a positive state. Use the mind to create happiness for yourself rather than suffering.
Track Common Thought Patterns
There are a few patterns that may come up but most of them are the ‘beat yourself up’ habits.
Comparison. We compare ourselves to others constantly. Stop doing it. Some people are bigger and stronger as others are smarter; many are luckier. It’s the game and if you allow comparisons to occur, you’ll lose your mental health.
Dealing with failure. Learning to deal with failure is hard but there are lots of ways to look at it. Because you didn’t get the job at Google or Stripe (both companies turned me down 3 times), I was disappointed but that soon went away and didn’t affect my happiness. Laurie Santos talks about this when the research students who didn’t get into Ivy League but went to another good school. This can extend to a lot of scenarios. https://www.coursera.org/learn/the-science-of-well-being/home/welcome
The way to overcome this is find out why these occurred and address them, grow from them. As the Buddha said, let go of things, not for you.
Mis-wanting. Do you know what you really want? This is a tough question. I thought I wanted certain things but then realized that I was chasing waterfalls. Clearly knowing what you want can help you shape your mind.
Can’t control it? Don’t try to control things. Throw it to God. Don’t believe in God? Try karma. 90% of people worry about things you can’t control.
Beware of Ignorance, Delusion, and Falsehood
Ignorance is often a source of wrong thinking. By simply educating yourself you can eradicate many harmful and unproductive thoughts. Always scrutinize the quality and quantity of information you intake from television and social media. What stories are you being told, and is that really the only truth? The ongoing narrative in your own head can also be faulty. Perhaps this came from real life experiences and then generalizations. Don’t let distorted stories (including your own) delude, limit, or lead you into bad decisions. Learn to examine things critically, even yourself.
Use Mindfulness to Stay in the Present Moment
You hear about it everywhere so do it. The purpose of mindfulness practice is to make the mind responsive rather than reactive. The sharpness your mind develops, and the quiet space you’ve routinely given it, will help prevent you from getting swept away in knee-jerk reactions of negative emotions and behaviors. Instead, you will be able to see situations clearly and therefore respond appropriately. Meditation is a powerful tool to develop mindfulness, but you can practice it in all your daily activities—for example by focusing on the act of chewing and swallowing during a meal, or on the sensations in your legs and feet while walking, or by paying attention to the thoughts and feelings that arise while you fold laundry. The key is to observe things calmly and objectively, almost clinically, without engaging. This will allow you to fully inhabit the present moment without getting caught up in fears about the future or negative thoughts about the past. Here is a list of online meditation programs.
Purpose Driven Social Media
Before you pick up your Facebook/IG or any social media, ask the question what’s the purpose and how much time are you spending on it? Do this every time and see what happens to your social media usage. If you have clear intent for using it, then you will understand the value it can have for you. I use it to connect with certain family. Cal Newport discusses this in his new book Digital Minimalism. Tina Desalvo discusses this in her workshops too. https://www.thesoulpurpose.com/
Get to Know Yourself
Experts say we change every 7-8 years. But if that’s the case why don’t our lives change every 7-8 years. Mine actually changes completely every 7-8 years. So I have to get to know who I am. Take character and personality tests like Meyers Brigg, Enneagram, Clifton Strengths, and Predictability Index. Do these, journals, and you will reveal things to yourself that will help you to choose a path, friends, and others who make you happy. One revelation I had is that I never did jobs that actually used my strengths or at least when I went to Silicon Valley I didn’t.
Set Some Goals and WOOP It!
I hate to say it but set some goals, achievable ones. Set some goals that are slam dunks like taking out the trash every Monday, or journaling a 3x per week. Then push ahead with a medium-term goal like take a new class, or doing your sevens workouts 3x per week in the morning. Use the WOOP method: wish, outcome, obstacle, and plan. How does it work? Make a wish. Create the outcome. Identify what obstacle may occur. Make a plan of action for when that obstacle happens. The plan is for the one you meet the obstacle and it’s a simple mind trick. I set a workout goal of 3x per week in the morning. In the morning I think, I don’t need to do this (obstacle). Then I have my plan to overcome the obstacle (I need to keep in shape to look good without my shirt on – which I don’t but I try any ways). Not that it matters because I once dated a lady who said: “you look better with your shirt on.” So that’s some motivation.
Keep the Mind Active by Learning Something New
Keeping your mind business stops you from free-thinking. It’s a wonderful thing and even Bill Gates in his documentary said this when his best friend died of a skiing accident when he was young. As long as you are aware of it, learning is a powerful tool to be mentally healthy. We live in such a wonderful time that information is at our fingertips provided by Google and amazing online courses. You can learn anything you want! Seek new ways to challenge, elevate and expand your mind so that it doesn’t get stuck in a rut. Step out of your comfort zone and try new things! Enroll in an online class or program. Absorb novel ideas and find creative solutions. My friend Innocent who is a refugee says the way he keeps himself mentally healthy is always learning new things, seeking new things, and bettering himself. https://www.kakumaventures.com/team/
Practice Deep Work
It’s an amazing time to focus on deep work concentration. First, read the book Deep Work. We don’t give ourselves blocks of time to really think deeply about topics and issues. There are compounding effects to working on one thing for extended periods of time. When your mind becomes engrossed, you lost track of time and then and only then will new epiphanies, connections, realizations, and discoveries occur. When is the last time this happened? Like anything else, it takes practice so practice Deep Work.
Find Leisure Activities that Relax Your Mind
After deep work, relax your mind. That’s often when your mind works ‘behind the scenes’. Sometimes your best ideas or epiphanies come from an open mind, like when Einstein took a long break and then thought of the theory of relativity.
Watching a violent movie or toxic reality show may seem like down-time, but is it really doing your mind any favors? There is enough fear, unrest, and negativity in the world already without intaking more of it optionally. Turn instead toward truly restorative activities that help your mind decompress and gain peace. Gardening is a very grounding activity that gets you outside and makes you feel proactive about your own health and food security, even if you just have a few potted herbs on the balcony. Cooking, baking and other kitchen projects, such as canning and dehydration, provide distraction and sustenance. Walks and yoga use gentle body movement to ease away cares. The intensity of a full workout offers a shot of endorphins and a pleasant tired feeling afterward. Art, music and crafting projects give you a break from your troubles by getting into “the zone.” And there has never been a better time to learn meditation.
If you want to learn about American history, racism and music, watch ‘The King’ on Amazon. It was really amazing.